Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Write a Story, Not Words

You're probably wondering what this title means, considering the post I recently wrote about choosing your words carefully. But let me explain.

I'm not an author. But I've read many books and have been able to distinguish the difference between the flat, okay stories from the Nicholas-Sparks-type-novels. As I mentioned, choosing your words with careful consideration is important for an author. The words we write can either destroy or heal. But they can also be the same thing that slows down your novel. Yes, your writing may be perfect, you may even have real, well-rounded characters. But what about your overall story - your plot, the message that you want to send through your writing?

Some people get so focused on perfecting their writing skills. After every chapter they write, they go back over and read what they've written, making sure there are no grammar mistakes and that their words flow to create the next scene. Yes, this is very important for an author. But this shouldn't be your main goal.

Earlier today I was watching a concert that was on my DVR of Taylor Swift singing with Def Leppard. She always has put on a great concert, but while I was watching, I was wondering how she became so popular. Her vocals aren't that perfect. A good range is usually what people say that make a great singer, but honestly, she doesn't have that much of a range. She's so famous, and I always find myself listening to her music. Why? Because she has a major talent in writing lyrics in a way that reaches out to other teenagers. She's a great role-model. She even designs amazing stages for her tours. Adults highly respect her because of her maturity. Fans are drawn to her because of the songs she sings, and for how real and humble she is in the midst of her fame. There's more to singing than amazing vocals and range. There's also more to writing than perfect grammar and sentence-fluency.

While you write or plan your novel, what is your focus? Do you ever wonder why your novel hasn't gotten accepted by a publisher or agent, yet you feel your writing is almost flawless? Although that is obviously a very important part of writing a novel, that shouldn't be our only focus. There have been many authors succeed although their writing could use some improvement. For example, Stephenie Meyer's popularTwilight series. Why are so many teenagers attracted toTwilight? The answer is simple. The storyline she created about a vampire falling in love with an innocent girl is apparently beautiful.

So how can you turn your writing into a treasured story? Here are a few tips I've learned that can transform a dull plot into a Nicholas-Sparks-type-novel that your readers will love:

1) 3-dimensional characters.
Create realistic characters with flaws. Readers are drawn to characters that bring humor, and ones that they can relate to. Not perfect, stick-figure, no personality characters. Fiction is a genre in which the author creates a story that could probably happen, so make characters that probably could exist.

2) An appealing setting.
Choose a setting that will interact with your story and characters. Include imagery and senses so the readers can feel as if they are really there, but don't go on and on about the appearance of snow-covered mountains. Doing this can slow down the pace of your story.

3) Symbolism.
This is one that authors tend to leave out, but I think symbolism is a powerful way to attract readers and help them remember your stories. This can also be a great way to prove a point without having to come out directly and say it.

4) Real problems, real conflict.
Creating situations that people go through can reach a reader in a personal way. Choose carefully when deciding on your character's conflicts.

5) A journey.
Not only should your protagonist take your reader on the many rides he/she goes on throughout the novel, but the character should take him/her on a spiritual journey as well. Your protagonist should be a different person than he/she was at the beginning of the story, so take your reader on that journey also.

6) Positivity.
When creating a novel that deals with real problems, it can be hard to weave in a little positivity. But don't make the focal point your characters' problems. Your goal should be to uplift the reader by helping them through what they're going through, not making them feel more depressed. You can also use this through dialogue.

7) Create a story that is different but the same.
Another thing I've noticed that attracts fans to Taylor Swift is the fact that she's different. She's a teenage country-pop artist and is completely not influenced by Hollywood's glitz and glam. Read well-liked books and think about what attracts the readers to them, but don't completely write a story just like it. Twist your story so that it's different in a way that will draw people to it, but the same kind of novel that readers adore.


So while planning your novel, consider the type of plot that will attract your audience. Instead of only paying attention to the way that you write, pay attention to the message you want to impact your readers with. Books can heal. Books can bring hope. Books can bring encouragement - but they can also bring boredom if your plot is not appealing enough.

Stop reading your previous chapters to make sure your grammar is perfect. You have a story to tell, not just words. So write it.


  1. THAT was REALLY good! Thanks for taking the time to write that!


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